Pro-drop language

Language in which certain pronouns may sometimes be omitted
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A pro-drop language (from "pronoun-dropping") is a language where certain classes of pronouns may be omitted when they can be pragmatically or grammatically inferable. The precise conditions vary from language to language, and can be quite intricate. The phenomenon of "pronoun-dropping" is part of the larger topic of zero or null anaphora.[1] The connection between pro-drop languages, and null anaphora relates to the fact that a dropped pronoun has referential properties, and so is crucially not a null dummy pronoun.

Pro-drop is only licensed in languages that have a positive setting of the pro-drop parameter, which allows the null element to be identified by its governor.[2]

Pro-drop is a problem when translating to a non-pro-drop language such as English, which requires the pronoun to be picked up, especially noticeable in machine translation.[3] Amongst other reasons, it can also pose a problem with respect to transfer errors and second language acquisition.[citation needed]

Non-pro-drop is an areal feature of many northern European languages (see Standard Average European), including French, (standard) German, English[4] and Emilian.[5] In contrast, Japanese,[6] Mandarin, Slavic languages,[7] Finno-Ugric languages and Hebrew[8] exhibit frequent pro-drop features. While Hindi,[9] Greek and some Romance languages, such as Spanish and European Portuguese, have the ability to pro-drop any and all arguments.

History of the term

The term "pro-drop" stems from Noam Chomsky's "Lectures on Government and Binding" from 1981 as a cluster of properties of which "null subject" was one (for the occurrence of pro as a predicate rather than a subject in sentences with the copula see Moro 1997).[citation needed]

Thus, a one-way correlation was suggested between inflectional agreement (AGR) and empty pronouns on the one hand and between no agreement and overt pronouns, on the other. In the classical version, languages which not only lack agreement morphology but also allow extensive dropping of pronouns—such as Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese—are not included, as is made clear in a footnote: "The principle suggested is fairly general, but does not apply to such languages as Japanese in which pronouns can be missing much more freely."[10] (Chomsky 1981:284, fn 47).

The term pro-drop is also used in other frameworks in generative grammar, such as in lexical functional grammar (LFG), but in a more general sense: "Pro-drop is a widespread linguistic phenomenon in which, under certain conditions, a structural NP may be unexpressed, giving rise to a pronominal interpretation."[11] (Bresnan 1982:384).

The empty category assumed (under government and binding theory) to be present in the vacant subject position left by pro-dropping is known as pro, or as "little pro" (to distinguish it from "big PRO", an empty category associated with non-finite verb phrases).[12]

Cross-linguistic variation

It has been observed that pro-drop languages are those with either rich inflection for person and number (Persian, Polish, Portuguese, etc.) or no such inflection at all (Japanese, Chinese, Korean, etc.), but languages that are intermediate (English, French, etc.) are non-pro-drop.

While the mechanism by which overt pronouns are more "useful" in English than in Japanese is obscure, and there are exceptions to this observation, it still seems to have considerable descriptive validity. As Huang puts it, "Pro-drop is licensed to occur either where a language has full agreement, or where a language has no agreement, but not where a language has impoverished partial agreement."[13]

In pro-drop languages with a highly inflected verbal morphology, the expression of the subject pronoun is considered unnecessary because the verbal inflection indicates the person and number of the subject, thus the referent of the null subject can be inferred from the grammatical inflection on the verb. [14]

Barbosa defines these typological patterns as null-subject languages (NSL), expressing that the term itself, pro-drop, can be subcategorized into categories such as: topic (discourse) pro-drop, partial NSL (partial pro-drop) and consistent NSL (full pro-drop).[15]

Topic pro-drop languages

In everyday speech there are instances when who or what is being referred to — namely, the topic of the sentence — can be inferred from context. Languages which permit the pronoun to be inferred from contextual information are called topic-drop (also known as discourse pro-drop) languages: thus, topic pro-drop languages allow referential pronouns to be omitted, or be phonologically null. (In contrast, languages that lack topic pro-drop as a mechanism would still require the pronoun.)These dropped pronouns can be inferred from previous discourse, from the context of the conversation, or generally shared knowledge.[16] Among major languages, some which might be called topic pro-drop languages are Japanese,[6][17] Korean,[17] and Mandarin.[18] Topic prominent languages like Korean, Mandarin and Japanese have structures which focus more on topics and comments as opposed to English, a subject-prominent language.[19] It is this topic-first nature that enables the inference of omitted pronouns from discourse.

Korean

The following example from Jung (2004:719) Korean shows the omission of both pronouns in the subject and object position.

ne

you

이것

ikes

this

필요하니?

philyohani?

need

너 이것 필요하니?

ne ikes philyohani?

you this need

Do you need this?

필요해

philyohay

need

필요해

philyohay

need

(I) need (it).[20]

Japanese

Consider the following examples from Japanese:[3]

この

Kono

This

ケーキ

kēki

cake

wa

TOP

美味しい。

oishii.

tasty-PRS

Dare

Who

ga

SUBJ

焼いた

yaita

bake-PAST

の?

no?

Q

この ケーキ は 美味しい。 誰 が 焼いた の?

Kono kēki wa oishii. Dare ga yaita no?

This cake TOP tasty-PRS Who SUBJ bake-PAST Q

This cake is tasty. Who baked (it)?

知らない。

Shiranai.

know-NEG.

気に入った?

Ki ni itta?

like-PAST

知らない。 気に入った?

Shiranai. {Ki ni itta?}

know-NEG. like-PAST

(I) don't know. Did (you) like (it)?

The words in parentheses and boldface in the English translations (it in the first line; I, you, and it in the second) appear nowhere in the Japanese sentences but are understood from context. If nouns or pronouns were supplied, the resulting sentences would be grammatically correct but sound unnatural. Learners of Japanese as a second language, especially those whose first language is non-pro-drop like English or French, often supply personal pronouns where they are pragmatically inferable, an example of language transfer.

Mandarin

The above-mentioned examples from Japanese are readily rendered into Mandarin:

Zhè

This

kuài

piece

蛋糕

dàngāo

cake

hěn

DEGREE

好吃。

hǎochī.

tasty.

Shéi

Who

kǎo

bake

的?

de?

MODIFY

这 块 蛋糕 很 好吃。 谁 烤 的?

Zhè kuài dàngāo hěn hǎochī. Shéi kǎo de?

This piece cake DEGREE tasty. Who bake MODIFY

This cake is tasty. Who baked (it)?

Not

知道。

zhīdào.

know.

喜欢

Xǐhuan

like

吗?

ma?

Q

不 知道。 喜欢 吗?

Bù zhīdào. Xǐhuan ma?

Not know. like Q

(I) don't know. Do (you) like (it)?

Unlike in Japanese, the inclusion of the dropped pronouns does not make the sentence sound unnatural.

Partial pro-drop languages

Languages with partial pro-drop have both agreement and referential null subjects that are restricted with respect to their distribution.[21] These partial null-subject languages include most Balto-Slavic languages, which allow for the deletion of the subject pronoun. Colloquial and dialectal German, unlike the standard language, are also partially pro-drop; they typically allow deletion of the subject pronoun in main clauses without inversion, but not otherwise. Hungarian allows deletion of both the subject and object pronouns.

Slavic languages

The following table provides examples of subject pro-drop in Slavic languages. In each of these examples, the 3rd person masculine singular pronoun 'he' in the second sentence is inferred from context.

Subject pro-drop in Slavic languages
language
Belarusian Бачу [яго]. Ідзе.
Bulgarian Виждам го. Идва.
Czech Vidím ho. Jde.
Macedonian Го гледам. Доаѓа.
Polish Widzę go. Idzie.
Russian Вижу [его]. Идёт.
Serbo-Croatian Видим га. / Vidim ga. Долази. / Dolazi.
Slovene Vidim ga. Prihaja.
Ukrainian Бачу [його]. Іде.
'I see him.' '(He) is coming.'

In the East Slavic languages even the objective pronoun "его" can be omitted in the present and future tenses (both imperfect and perfective). In these languages, the missing pronoun is not inferred strictly from pragmatics, but partially indicated by the morphology of the verb (Вижу, Виждам, Widzę, Vidim, etc...). However, the past tense of both imperfective and perfective in modern East Slavic languages inflects by gender and number rather than the person due to the fact that the present tense conjugations of the copula "to be" (Russian быть, Ukrainian бути, Belorussian быць) have practically fallen out of use. As such, the pronoun is often included in these tenses, especially in writing.

Finno-Ugric languages

In Finnish, the verb inflection replaces first and second person pronouns in simple sentences, e.g. menen "I go", menette "all of you go". Pronouns are typically left in place only when they need to be inflected, e.g. me "we", meiltä "from us". There are possessive pronouns, but possessive suffixes, e.g. -ni as in kissani "my cat", are also used, as in Kissani söi kalan ("my cat ate a fish"). A peculiarity of colloquial Finnish is that the pronoun me ("we") can be dropped if the verb is placed in the passive voice (e.g. haetaan, standard "it is fetched", colloquial "we fetch"). In the Estonian language, a close relative of Finnish, the tendency is less clear. It generally uses explicit personal pronouns in the literary language, but these are often omitted in colloquial Estonian.

Hungarian is also pro-drop, subject pronouns are used only for emphasis, as example (Én) mentem "I went", and because of the definite conjugation, object pronouns can be often elided as well; for example, the question (Ti) látjátok a macskát? "Do (you pl.) see the cat?" can be answered with just látjuk "(We) see (it)", because the definite conjugation renders the object pronoun superfluous.

Hebrew

Modern Hebrew, like Biblical Hebrew, is a "moderately" pro-drop language. In general, subject pronouns must be included in the present tense. Since Hebrew has no verb forms expressing the present tense, the present tense is formed using the present participle (somewhat like English I am guarding). The participle in Hebrew, as is the case with other adjectives, declines only in grammatical gender and number (like the past tense in Russian), thus:

I (m.) guard (ani shomer) = אני שומר
You (m.) guard (ata shomer) = אתה שומר
He guards (hu shomer) = הוא שומר
I (f.) guard (ani shomeret) = אני שומרת
We (m.) guard (anachnu shomrim) = אנחנו שומרים

Since the forms used for the present tense lack the distinction between grammatical persons, explicit pronouns must be added in the majority of cases.

In contrast, the past tense and the future tense the verb form is inflected for person, number, and gender. Therefore, the verb form itself indicates sufficient information about the subject. The subject pronoun is therefore normally dropped, except in third-person.[22]

I (m./f.) guarded (shamarti) = שמרתי
You (m. pl.) guarded (sh'martem) = שמרתם
I (m./f.) will guard (eshmor) = אשמור
You (pl./m.) will guard (tishm'ru) = תשמרו

Many nouns can take suffixes to reflect the possessor, in which case the personal pronoun is dropped. In daily modern Hebrew usage, the inflection of nouns is common only for some nouns, and in most cases, inflected possessive pronouns are used. In Hebrew, possessive pronouns are treated mostly like adjectives and follow the nouns which they modify. In biblical Hebrew, inflection of more sophisticated nouns is more common than in modern usage.

Full pro-drop languages

Full pro-drop languages, also known as consistent NSLs, are languages that are characterized by rich subject agreement morphology where subjects are freely dropped under the appropriate discourse conditions.[23] In some contexts, pro-drop in these languages is mandatory and also occurs in contexts in which pro-drop cannot happen for partial pro-drop languages.[24] The following languages exhibit full pro-drop in their own distinct ways.

Hindi

South Asian languages such as Hindi, in general, have the ability to pro-drop any and all arguments.[9] Hindi is a split-ergative language and when the subject of the sentence is in the ergative case (also when the sentence involves the infinitive participle, which requires the subject to be in the dative case[25]), the verb of the sentence agrees in gender and number with the object of the sentence, hence making it possible to drop the object since it can be contextually inferred from the gender of the verb.

In the example below, the subject is in the ergative case and the verb agrees in number and gender with the direct object.

तुमने

tumne

you.ERG

नाद्या को

nādyā ko

nadya.DAT.FEM

खाना

khānā

food.NOM.MASC

दिया?

diyā?

give.PFV.PTCP.MASC.SG

तुमने {नाद्या को} खाना दिया?

tumne {nādyā ko} khānā diyā?

you.ERG nadya.DAT.FEM food.NOM.MASC give.PFV.PTCP.MASC.SG

"Did you give the food to Nadya?"

हाँ

hā̃

yes

दे

de

give

दिया।

diyā.

give.PFV.PTCP.MASC.SG

हाँ दे दिया।

hā̃ de diyā.

yes give give.PFV.PTCP.MASC.SG

"yes, (I) gave (her food)."

In the example below, the subject is in the dative case and the verb agrees in number and gender with the direct object.

तुम्हें

tumhẽ

you.DAT

खानी

khānī

eat.INF.PTCP.FEM.PL

हैं

ha͠i

be.3PL

ये

ye

these.NOM.PL

चीज़ें?

chīzẽ?

things.NOM.FEM.PL

तुम्हें खानी हैं ये चीज़ें?

tumhẽ khānī ha͠i ye chīzẽ?

you.DAT eat.INF.PTCP.FEM.PL be.3PL these.NOM.PL things.NOM.FEM.PL

"Do you want to eat these things?"

हाँ

hā̃

yes

खानी

khānī

eat.INF.PTCP.FEM.PL

हैं।

ha͠i.

be.3PL

हाँ खानी हैं।

hā̃ khānī ha͠i.

yes eat.INF.PTCP.FEM.PL be.3PL

"yes, (I) want to."

In the example below, the subject is in the nominative case and the verb agrees in number, gender, and also in person with the subject.

चलोगी

chalogī

go.2SG.FUT.FEM

देखने

dekhne

watch.INF.OBL

फ़िल्म?

film?

film.FEM

चलोगी देखने फ़िल्म?

chalogī dekhne film?

go.2SG.FUT.FEM watch.INF.OBL film.FEM

"will (you.FEM) go watch a film (with me)?"

हाँ

hā̃

yes

चलूँगी।

chalū̃gī.

go.1SG.FUT.FEM

हाँ चलूँगी।

hā̃ chalū̃gī.

yes go.1SG.FUT.FEM

"yes, (I.FEM) will go."

Greek

Subject pronouns are usually omitted in Greek, but the verb is inflected for the person and number of the subject. Example:

Βλέπεις

see.2sg

εκείνο

that

το

the

κούτσουρο;

log?

Θα

Would

ήταν

be.3sg

καλό

good

για

for

τη

the

φωτιά.

fire.

Είναι

be.pres.3sg

τελείως

completely

ξερό.

dried

Βλέπεις εκείνο το κούτσουρο; Θα ήταν καλό για τη φωτιά. Είναι τελείως ξερό.

see.2sg that the log? Would be.3sg good for the fire. be.pres.3sg completely dried

(You) see this log? (It) would be good for the fire. (It) has completely dried.

Romance languages

Like their parent Latin language, most Romance languages (with the notable exception of French) are categorised as pro-drop as well, though generally only in the case of subject pronouns. Unlike in Japanese, however, the missing subject pronoun is not inferred strictly from pragmatics, but partially indicated by the morphology of the verb, which inflects for person and number of the subject. Spanish, Italian, Catalan, Occitan and Romanian can elide subject pronouns only (Portuguese sometimes elides object pronouns as well), and they often do so even when the referent has not been mentioned. This is helped by person/number inflection on the verb. The 3rd person singular and plural subject pronouns are often kept to denote and differentiate male and female subjects/genders.

Spanish

In Spanish, the verb is inflected for both person and number, thus expression of the pronoun is unnecessary because it is grammatically redundant.[14] In the following example, the inflection on the verb ver, 'see', signals informal 2nd person singular, thus the pronoun is dropped. Similarly, from both the context and verbal morphology, the listener can infer that the second two utterances are referring to the log, so the speaker omits the pronoun that would appear in English as "it."

¿Ves

See

este

this

tronco?

log?

Sería

Would be

bueno

good

para

for

la

the

fogata.

campfire.

Está

Is

completamente

completely

seco.

dry

¿Ves este tronco? Sería bueno para la fogata. Está completamente seco.

See this log? {Would be} good for the campfire. Is completely dry

(Do) (you) see this log? (It) would be good for the campfire. (It) is completely dry

Although Spanish is predominantly a pro-drop language, not all grammatical contexts allow for a null pronoun. There are some environments that require an overt pronoun. In contrast, there are also grammatical environments that require a null pronoun. According to the Real Academia Española, the expression or elision of the subject pronoun is not random. Rather there are contexts in which an overt pronoun is abnormal, while in other cases the overt pronoun is possible or even required.[26] Further, the examples below illustrate how overt pronouns in Spanish are not constrained by inflectional morphology. The pronoun nosotros can be either present or absent, depending on certain discourse conditions:[27]

Salimos

left

Salimos

left

“We left.”

Nosotros

We

salimos.

left

Nosotros salimos.

We left

“We left.”

The third person pronouns (él, ella, ellos, ellas) in most contexts can only refer to persons. Therefore, when referring to things (that are not people) an explicit pronoun is usually disallowed.[26]

Subject pronouns can be made explicit when used for a contrastive function or when the subject is the focus of the sentence. In the following example, the first person explicit pronoun is used to emphasize the subject. In the next sentence the explicit yo, stressed that the opinion is from the speaker and not from the second person or another person.

Yo

I

creo

think

que

that

eso

that

estuvo

was

mal.

wrong.

Yo creo que eso estuvo mal.

I think that that was wrong.

Subject pronouns can also be made explicit in order to clarify ambiguities that arise due to verb forms that are homophonous in the first person and third person. For example, in the past imperfect, conditional, and the subjunctive, the verb forms are the same for first person singular and third person singular. In these situations, using the explicit pronoun yo (1st person singular) or él, ella (3rd person singular) clarifies who the subject is, since the verbal morphology is ambiguous.[26]

Italian

Vedi

See

questo

this

tronco?

log?

Andrebbe

Would go

bene

well

per

for

bruciare.

burning.

È

Is

completamente

completely

secco.

dry

Vedi questo tronco? Andrebbe bene per bruciare. È completamente secco.

See this log? {Would go} well for burning. Is completely dry

Do (you) see this log? (It) would be fit for burning. (It) is completely dry.

Italian further demonstrates full pro-drop by allowing for the possibility of a salient, referential, definite subject of finite clauses. With respect to the Null subject parameter (NSP), this will be analyzed using the phrase 'She speaks Italian.'[28]

While Italian has a [+] value, illustrated by the following example:

Parla italiano. (Italian, +NSP)

A non pro-drop language, such as English, has a [-] value for NSP, and thus does not allow for this possibility:

*Speaks Italian. (English, -NSP)

Portuguese

Portuguese displays full pro-drop by allowing subjects of finite clauses to be phonetically null:[29]

Chegaram.

arrived-3PL

Chegaram.

arrived-3PL

‘They have arrived.’

Provided this example, it is important to note that variations of Portuguese can differ with respect to their pro-drop features. While European Portuguese (EP) is a full pro-drop language, Brazilian Portuguese (BP) exhibits partial pro-drop. The two are compared below, respectively:

Examples of omitted subject:

Estás

Are

a

to

ver

see

este

this

tronco?

log?

Seria

Would be

bom

good

para

for

a

the

fogueira.

campfire.

Secou

Dried

completamente.

completely

(European Portuguese)

 

Estás a ver este tronco? Seria bom para a fogueira. Secou completamente.

Are to see this log? {Would be} good for the campfire. Dried completely

(Do) (you) see this log? (It) would be good for the campfire. (It) has completely dried.

Está(s)

Are

vendo

seeing

esse

this

tronco?

log?

Seria

Would be

bom

good

pra

for-the

fogueira.

campfire.

Secou

Dried

completamente.

completely

(Brazilian Portuguese)

 

Está(s) vendo esse tronco? Seria bom pra fogueira. Secou completamente.

Are seeing this log? {Would be} good for-the campfire. Dried completely

(Do) (you) see this log? (It) would be good for the campfire. (It) has completely dried.

Omission of object pronouns is likewise possible when the referent is clear, especially in colloquial or informal language:

Acho

Think

que

that

ele

he

vai

goes

rejeitar

(to-)reject

a

the

proposta,

proposal,

mas

but

pode

may

aceitar.

accept.

Acho que ele vai rejeitar a proposta, mas pode aceitar.

Think that he goes (to-)reject the proposal, but may accept.

(I) think he is going to turn down the proposal, but (he) may accept (it).

Ainda

Still

tem

is there

macarrão?

pasta?

Não,

No,

papai

daddy

comeu.

ate.

Ainda tem macarrão? Não, papai comeu.

Still {is there} pasta? No, daddy ate.

Is there pasta left? No, daddy ate (it).

The use of the object pronoun in these examples (aceitá-la, comeu-o) is the default everywhere but Brazil.

Ela

She

me

me

procurou

sought

ontem

yesterday

e

and

não

not

achou.

found.

Ela me procurou ontem e não achou.

She me sought yesterday and not found.

She looked for me yesterday and didn't find (me).

Here não me achou would also be possible.

A:

A‍:

Eu

I

te

you

amo;

love;

você

you

também

too

me

me

ama?

love?

B:

B‍:

Amo,

Love-1sg,

sim.

yes.

A: Eu te amo; você também me ama? B: Amo, sim.

A‍: I you love; you too me love? B‍: Love-1sg, yes.

A: I love you; do you love me too? B: I do.

Omission of the object pronoun is possible even when its referent has not been explicitly mentioned, so long as it can be inferred. The next example might be heard at a store; the referent (a dress) is clear to the interlocutor. In both Brazilian and European Portuguese the pronoun is omitted.

Viu

Saw

que

how

bonito?

beautiful?

Não

Don't

gosta?

like?

Pode

Can

comprar?

buy?

(BP)

(using polite 2nd person) (BP)

Viu que bonito? Não gosta? Pode comprar?

Saw how beautiful? Don't like? Can buy?

Viste

Saw

que

how

bonito?

beautiful?

Não

Don't

gostas?

like?

Podes

Can

comprar?

buy?

(EP)

(using informal 2nd person) (EP)

Viste que bonito? Não gostas? Podes comprar?

Saw how beautiful? Don't like? Can buy?

Have you seen how beautiful it is? Do you like it? Can you buy it?

Pro-drop with locative and partitive

Modern Spanish and Portuguese are also notable amongst Romance languages because they have no specific pronouns for circumstantial complements (arguments denoting circumstance, consequence, place or manner, modifying the verb but not directly involved in the action) or partitives (words or phrases denoting a quantity of something).[clarification needed] However, Medieval language had them, e.g. Portuguese hi and ende.

Compare the following examples in which Spanish, Portuguese, Galician, and Romanian have null pronouns for place and partitives, but Catalan, French, Occitan, and Italian have overt pronouns for place and partitive.

Pro-drop with locative and partitive: Romance
language locative partitive
Spanish ¡Voy! Tengo cuatro.
Portuguese Vou! Tenho quatro.
Galician Vou! Teño catro.
Romanian Mă duc! Am patru.
Catalan Hi vaig! En tinc quatre.
French J'y vais ! J'en ai quatre.
Occitan I vau! N'ai quatre.
Italian Ci vado! Ne ho quattro.
'I'm going [there]!' 'I have four (of them).'
Languages in Europe
  Non-pro-drop languages
  Pro-drop being displaced by a non-pro-drop language

Other examples

Arabic

Arabic is considered a null-subject language, as demonstrated by the following example:

ساعد غيرك، يساعدك

sāʻid

Help

ghayrak,

other,

yusāʻiduk.

help.PST.3SG you

sāʻid ghayrak, yusāʻiduk.

Help other, {help.PST.3SG you}

If (you) help another, (he) helps you.

Turkish

Sen-i

2SG-ACC

gör-dü-m

see-PAST-1SG

Sen-i gör-dü-m

2SG-ACC see-PAST-1SG

(I) saw you.

The subject "I" above is easily inferable as the verb gör-mek "to see" is conjugated in the first person simple past tense form. The object is indicated by the pronoun seni in this case. Strictly speaking, pronominal objects are generally explicitly indicated, although frequently possessive suffixes indicate the equivalent of an object in English, as in the following sentence.

Gel-diğ-im-i

come-NMLZ-POSS.1SG-ACC

gör-dü-n

see-PAST-2SG

mü?

Q

Gel-diğ-im-i gör-dü-n mü?

come-NMLZ-POSS.1SG-ACC see-PAST-2SG Q

Did you see me coming?

In this sentence, the object of the verb is actually the action of coming performed by the speaker (geldiğimi "my coming"), but the object in the English sentence, "me", is indicated here by the possessive suffix -im "my" on the nominalised verb. Both pronouns can be explicitly indicated in the sentence for purposes of emphasis, as follows:

Sen

2SG

ben-im

1SG-POSS

gel-diğ-im-i

come-"ing"-POSS.1SG-ACC

gör-dü-n

see-PAST-2SG

mü?

Q

Sen ben-im gel-diğ-im-i gör-dü-n mü?

2SG 1SG-POSS come-"ing"-POSS.1SG-ACC see-PAST-2SG Q

Did you see me coming?

Swahili

In Swahili, both subject and object pronouns can be omitted as they are indicated by verbal prefixes.

Ni-ta-ku-saidia.

Ni-

SUBJ.1SG-

-ta-

-FUT-

-ku-

-OBJ.2SG-

-saidia.

-help

Ni- -ta- -ku- -saidia.

SUBJ.1SG- -FUT- -OBJ.2SG- -help

(I) will help (you).

English

While English is not a pro-drop language, subject pronouns are almost always dropped in imperative sentences (e.g., Come here! Do tell! Eat your vegetables!), with the subject "you" understood or communicated non-verbally.[30]

In informal speech, the pronominal subject is sometimes dropped. This ellipsis has been called "conversational deletion" and "left-edge deletion",[31][32][33] and is common in informal spoken English as well as certain registers of written English, notably diaries.[34] Most commonly, it is the first person singular subject which is dropped.[35]

Some other words, especially copulas and auxiliaries, can also be dropped.

In speech, when pronouns are not dropped, they are more often reduced than other words in an utterance.

Relative pronouns, provided they are not the subject, are often dropped in short restrictive clauses: That's the man [whom] I saw.

The dropping of pronouns is generally restricted to very informal speech and certain fixed expressions, and the rules for their use are complex and vary among dialects and registers. A noted instance was the "lived the dream" section of George H. W. Bush's speech at the 1988 Republican National Convention.[36][37][38][39]

Other language families and linguistic regions

Among the Indo-European and Dravidian languages of India, pro-drop is the general rule though many Dravidian languages do not have overt verbal markers to indicate pronominal subjects. Mongolic languages are similar in this respect to Dravidian languages, and all Paleosiberian languages are rigidly pro-drop.

Outside of northern Europe, most Niger–Congo languages, Khoisan languages of Southern Africa and Austronesian languages of the Western Pacific, pro-drop is the usual pattern in almost all linguistic regions of the world. In many non-pro-drop Niger–Congo or Austronesian languages, like Igbo, Samoan and Fijian, however, subject pronouns do not occur in the same position as a nominal subject and are obligatory, even when the latter is present. In more easterly Austronesian languages, like Rapa Nui and Hawaiian, subject pronouns are often omitted even though no other subject morphemes exist. Pama–Nyungan languages of Australia also typically omit subject pronouns even when there is no explicit expression of the subject.

Many Pama–Nyungan languages, however, have clitics, which often attach to nonverbal hosts to express subjects. The other languages of Northwestern Australia are all pro-drop, for all classes of pronoun. Also, Papuan languages of New Guinea and Nilo-Saharan languages of East Africa are pro-drop.

Among the indigenous languages of the Americas, pro-drop is almost universal, as would be expected from the generally polysynthetic and head-marking character of the languages. That generally allows eliding of all object pronouns as well as subject ones. Indeed, most reports on Native American languages show that even the emphatic use of pronouns is exceptionally rare. Only a few Native American languages, mostly language isolates (Haida, Trumai, Wappo) and the Oto-Manguean family are known for normally using subject pronouns.

Yahgan, a critically endangered language isolate from Tierra del Fuego, didn't have any Pro-drop when it was still spoken widely in the late 19th century, when it was first described grammatically and had texts translated into English and other languages (three biblical New Testament texts: Luke, John, and Acts of the Apostles). In fact, emphatic pronouns and cross-reference pronouns on the verb commonly appeared together.

Pragmatic inference

Classical Chinese exhibits extensive dropping not only of pronouns but also of any terms (subjects, verbs, objects, etc.) pragmatically inferable, giving a very compact character to the language. Note, however, that Classical Chinese was a written language, and such word dropping is not necessarily representative of the spoken language or even of the same linguistic phenomenon.

See also

References

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  2. ^ Bussmann, Hadumod (2006). Routledge Dictionary of Language and Linguistics. doi:10.4324/9780203980057. ISBN 9780203980057.
  3. ^ a b Wang, Longyue; Tu, Zhaopeng; Zhang, Xiaojun; Liu, Siyou; Li, Hang; Way, Andy; Liu, Qun (2017-06-01). "A novel and robust approach for pro-drop language translation". Machine Translation. 31 (1): 65–87. doi:10.1007/s10590-016-9184-9. hdl:1893/24678. ISSN 1573-0573. S2CID 10567431.
  4. ^ Martin Haspelmath, The European linguistic area: Standard Average European, in Martin Haspelmath, et al., Language Typology and Language Universals, vol. 2, 2001, pp. 1492-1510
  5. ^ Fabio Foresti, Dialetti emiliano-romagnoli, Enciclopedia Treccani
  6. ^ a b Zushi, Mihoko (2003-04-01). "Null arguments: the case of Japanese and Romance". Lingua. Formal Japanese syntax and universal grammar: the past 20 years. 113 (4): 559–604. doi:10.1016/S0024-3841(02)00085-2. ISSN 0024-3841.
  7. ^ Kordić, Snježana (2001). Wörter im Grenzbereich von Lexikon und Grammatik im Serbokroatischen [Serbo-Croatian Words on the Border Between Lexicon and Grammar]. Studies in Slavic Linguistics ; 18 (in German). Munich: Lincom Europa. pp. 10–12. ISBN 978-3-89586-954-9. LCCN 2005530313. OCLC 47905097. OL 2863539W. CROSBI 426497. Summary.
  8. ^ Shlonsky, Ur (2009). "Hebrew as a partial null-subject language*". Studia Linguistica. 63 (1): 133–157. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9582.2008.01156.x. ISSN 1467-9582.
  9. ^ a b Butt, Miriam (2001-01-01). "Case, Agreement, Pronoun Incorporation and Pro-Drop in South Asian Languages". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. ^ Chomsky, Noam (2010-12-14). Lectures on Government and Binding. De Gruyter Mouton. doi:10.1515/9783110884166. ISBN 978-3-11-088416-6.
  11. ^ Bresnan, Joan (1982). The Mental Representation of Grammatical Relations. MIT Press. p. 384. ISBN 9780262021586.
  12. ^ R.L. Trask, A Dictionary of Grammatical Terms in Linguistics, Routledge 2013, p. 218.
  13. ^ Huang, C.-T. James. "On the distribution and reference of empty pronouns". Linguistic Inquiry 15: 531-574. 1984.
  14. ^ a b Flores-Ferrán, Nydia (2007-11-01). "A Bend in the Road: Subject Personal Pronoun Expression in Spanish after 30 Years of Sociolinguistic Research". Language and Linguistics Compass. 1 (6): 624–652. doi:10.1111/j.1749-818X.2007.00031.x. ISSN 1749-818X.
  15. ^ Barbosa, Pilar P. (1 June 2019). "pro as a Minimal nP: Toward a Unified Approach to Pro-Drop". Linguistic Inquiry. 50 (3): 487–526. doi:10.1162/ling_a_00312. S2CID 62520202. Retrieved 12 December 2021.
  16. ^ Jung, Euen Hyuk (Sarah) (2004). "Topic and Subject Prominence in Interlanguage Development". Language Learning. 54 (4): 713–738. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9922.2004.00284.x. ISSN 1467-9922.
  17. ^ a b O'Grady, William; Yamashita, Yoshie; Cho, Sookeun (2008). "Object Drop in Japanese and Korean". Language Acquisition. 15 (1): 58–68. doi:10.1080/10489220701774278. ISSN 1048-9223. JSTOR 20462508. S2CID 143578926.
  18. ^ Li, Yen-Hui Audrey (2014-11-01). "Born empty". Lingua. Structural Approaches to Ellipsis. 151: 43–68. doi:10.1016/j.lingua.2013.10.013. ISSN 0024-3841.
  19. ^ Li, Charles & Thompson, Sandra. (1976). Subject and Topic: A New Typology of Language. Subject and Topic.
  20. ^ Jung, Euen Hyuk (Sarah) (2004). "Topic and Subject Prominence in Interlanguage Development". Language Learning. 54 (4): 713–738. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9922.2004.00284.x. ISSN 1467-9922.
  21. ^ Barbosa, Pilar P. (1 June 2019). "pro as a Minimal nP: Toward a Unified Approach to Pro-Drop". Linguistic Inquiry. 50 (3): 487–526. doi:10.1162/ling_a_00312. S2CID 62520202. Retrieved 12 December 2021.
  22. ^ Hacohen, Gonen; Schegloff, Emanuel A. (2006-08-01). "On the preference for minimization in referring to persons: Evidence from Hebrew conversation". Journal of Pragmatics. Focus-on Issue: Discourse and Conversation. 38 (8): 1305–1312. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2006.04.004.
  23. ^ Barbosa, Pilar P. (1 June 2019). "pro as a Minimal nP: Toward a Unified Approach to Pro-Drop". Linguistic Inquiry. 50 (3): 487–526. doi:10.1162/ling_a_00312. S2CID 62520202. Retrieved 12 December 2021.
  24. ^ Barbosa, Pilar P. (1 June 2019). "pro as a Minimal nP: Toward a Unified Approach to Pro-Drop". Linguistic Inquiry. 50 (3): 487–526. doi:10.1162/ling_a_00312. S2CID 62520202. Retrieved 12 December 2021.
  25. ^ Bhatt, Rajesh (2003). Experiencer subjects. Handout from MIT course “Structure of the Modern Indo-Aryan Languages”.
  26. ^ a b c "Pronombre Personales Tónicos". Diccionario Panhispánico de Dudas. Real Academia Española. 2005.
  27. ^ Camacho, Jose A. (2013). Null Subjects. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/cbo9781139524407. ISBN 978-1-139-52440-7.
  28. ^ Sessarego, Sandro; Gutierrez-Rexach, Javier (2017). "Revisiting the Null Subject Parameter: New Insights from Afro-Peruvian Spanish". Open Journal of Romance Linguistics. 3 (1): 43–68. doi:10.5565/rev/isogloss.26. Retrieved 12 December 2021.
  29. ^ Barbosa, Pilar P. (2011). "Pro-drop and theories of pro in the minimalist program part 1: Consistent null subject languages and the pronominal-agr hypothesis". Language and Linguistics Compass. 5 (8): 551-570. doi:10.1111/j.1749-818X.2011.00293.x.
  30. ^ Geoffrey K. Pullum, Rodney Huddleston, A Student's Introduction to English Grammar, 2005, ISBN 1139643800, p. 170
  31. ^ Waldman, Katy (May 4, 2016). "Why Do We Delete the Initial Pronoun From Our Sentences? Glad You Asked". Slate.
  32. ^ Randolph H. Thrasher, Shouldn't ignore these strings: A study of conversational deletion, PhD dissertation, 1974, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (not seen)
  33. ^ Randolph H. Thrasher, "One way to say more by saying less: A study of so-called subjectless sentences", 1977, Kwansei Gakuin University Monograph Series 11 Tokyo: Eihosha (not seen)
  34. ^ Andrew Weir, "Left-edge deletion in English and subject omission in diaries", English Language & Linguistics 16:1:105-129 (March 2012) doi:10.1017/S136067431100030X
  35. ^ Susanne Wagner, "Never saw one – first-person null subjects in spoken English", English Language and Linguistics 22:1:1-34 (March 2018)
  36. ^ Bush, George H. W. (18 August 1988). "Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans". American Presidency Project. University of California, Santa Barbara. Retrieved 22 July 2015. Those were exciting days. Lived in a little shotgun house, one room for the three of us. Worked in the oil business, started my own. In time we had six children. Moved from the shotgun to a duplex apartment to a house. Lived the dream - high school football on Friday night, Little League, neighborhood barbecue.
  37. ^ Didion, Joan (27 October 1988). "Insider Baseball". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 22 July 2015. as Bush, or Peggy Noonan, had put it in the celebrated no-subject-pronoun cadences of the "lived the dream" acceptance speech.
  38. ^ Greenfield, Jeff (September 2008). "Accepting the Inevitable: What McCain can learn from the acceptance speeches of Reagan, Bush, and Gore". Slate: 2. Note how, as he tells his story, the pronouns drop out, underscoring the idea that this was more a conversation than a speech
  39. ^ Winant, Gabriel (21 December 2006). "When the Going Gets Tough". Leland Quarterly. Retrieved 23 July 2015. Bush projects an image as a forthright Westerner who has no truck with fancy language or personal pronouns.
  40. ^ Sessarego, Sandro; Gutierrez-Rexach, Javier (2017). "Revisiting the Null Subject Parameter: New Insights from Afro-Peruvian Spanish". Isogloss. 3 (1): 43–68. doi:10.5565/rev/isogloss.26.

Further reading

External links